Siobhan Bredin, project director of the National Science Foundation-funded ITEST (IT Experiences for Students and Teachers) Learning Resource Center at EDC, will address the United Nations this week, presenting five successful strategies for encouraging young women and girls to pursue skills and careers in science and technology.
“The UN event is concentrating on increasing opportunities to learn about and pursue science and technology careers and on developing technical skills-both professional and personal-for women and girls,” says Bredin. “My presentation will provide examples of successful initiatives from the ITEST project in the U.S. as well as examples from other countries.”
Bredin’s February 28th presentation will be part of a UN-sponsored event, “Empowerment, Gender Equality and Development through IT,” in conjunction with the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The event brings together delegates from the UN, business and government, non-profits, and academia from around the world, to share ideas and connections.
In addition to sharing strategies from the ITEST program, Bredin will share work from programs established by her colleagues on the International Taskforce on Women and ICTs (ITWICT).
Bredin and her colleagues from the ITEST program-representing 71 projects across 33 states-have identified the following elements that contribute to participation by women and girls in technology and science:
- Using experiential learning approaches/connecting to real world: rather than simply focusing on how technologies work, all of these programs connect the use of technology tools with real world concerns and interests of the participants.
- Fostering persistence: successful programs encourage experimentation, trying different ways of doing things, not having a right or wrong answer.
- Communicating high expectations: successful programs have high expectations for their participants, which encourages increased self-esteem and achievement levels.
- Providing positive perceptions and role models: by connecting technology to real world situations and interests, successful programs counteract negative stereotypes about technology and science careers being “just for nerds,” unattainable, or not related to helping people.
- Teaching 21st century skills: successful programs teach 21st century skills-not simply how to use a technology, but what can be done with it, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and ways in which participants can explore new ways to use technologies in their careers and lives.
In addition to information gathered from the ITEST program, Bredin will draw on material from the book, Cinderella or Cyberella: Empowering Women in the Knowledge Society,developed by members of ITWICT to highlight overseas initiatives that focus on gender and technology issues. One example from South India, features multiple groups of 10 women who each form a business-with government start-up funding-in one of three IT areas: data entry services, hardware assembly and sales, IT training for schools. As their businesses expand, they hire other women and men from the local community, and become self-sustaining.
Bredin will also participate in an expert panel, “Partnerships with Governments, the Private Sector, and Civil Society on the Use of ICT to Enhance the Learning, Empowerment, and Overall Performance of Girls,” which is moderated by Amir Dossal, executive director of the United Nations Office of Partnerships.
At EDC, Bredin works in Education, Employment, and Community Programs. She is project director of the National Science Foundation-funded ITEST Learning Resource Center, which is designed to encourage young people-especially girls, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and others historically under-represented in science-to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields. Bredin also leads a team at EDC to contribute to the National Girls Collaborative Project, which is designed to strengthen the capacity, impact, and sustainability of existing and evolving girl-serving STEM programs across the United States.
She is a Steering Committee member of ITWICT, a five-year initiative dedicated to achieving women’s full participation and leadership in ICTs. Members include representatives from six continents and 39 countries.
Originally published on February 1, 2007